Isaiah Rider wasted little time in his first month with the Atlanta Hawks extending his reputation as a talented but troubled shooting guard.
But following a 30-point performance in a 94-84 win over the Boston Celtics Saturday night, Rider gave Hawks coach Lenny Wilkens reason to hope the 28-year-old will quit causing problems off the court.
"Lenny has my backing to the fullest," said Rider, who earned his way back in to the starting lineup Tuesday after drawing a one-game suspension Nov. 15 for failing to report to practice. "We talked behind closed doors. I told him I didn't want to disrupt the team. I don't want to mope or pout."
Since reclaiming his starting job in a 113-106 win over Miami, Rider has averaged 24.5 points and 41 minutes.
"I just thought he played a great game," Wilkens said. "He didn't want to be denied. The thing about J.R. is even though he misses a few shots, he's capable of making the big shot. So we wanted to keep him in there."
One day after wasting a 21-point advantage and losing 114-112 to Milwaukee, the Celtics twice held 14-point leads, but allowed Atlanta to close the gap to 73-72 with a 13-0 run.
Boston went 6:43 without a field goal before Adrian Griffin hit a jumper to put the Celtics up 78-77 their last lead of the game. The Celtics made only two more field goals, one coming on a goaltending call by Mutombo on Antoine Walker's running jumper.
"If you let this teadominate you on the glass, you can't win," said Celtics coach Rick Pitino, whose team was outrebounded 30-9 in the second half. "It's our own fault. We ran out of gas and got killed on the backboards. They deserved to win."
Atlanta improved to 5-9 to avoid posting its worst start since 1990-91.
Playing their fourth game in five days, the Hawks appeared to tire as the third quarter wore on, watching Boston go up 70-56 on three free throws by Dana Barros.
Barros hit a 3-pointer with 1:59 left in the third for a 73-59 lead, but the Celtics, who were playing their fourth game in six days, managed only three free throws until Griffin hit his jumper.
Kenny Anderson led Boston with 17 points, and Walker added 16.
"I don't know what happened," said Anderson, who missed nine of his last 11 shots. "Even when we get a lead, we have to keep playing. We just didn't do the things we needed to do to win. Everybody has the same schedule. We can't make any excuses."
Pitino pulled all five of his starters with 1:24 to play after Rider's basket made it 89-82.
"The mentally tough team wins it," Pitino said. "Isaiah Rider is more mentally tough than our defense."
Atlanta's Alan Henderson had 14 points and nine rebounds.
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